Cookie, the new Greaves, all mazy dribbles and deft flicks

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The Independent Online
They say that the test of champions is being able to win narrowly, even when being completely outplayed. This morning John Major's Tories are still the top team, having squeaked home in the second leg of the Scott Cup last night. But if it hadn't been for the unexpected loyalty of one fan, there would have been a completely different ending to this particular tournament.

In the first leg, of course, Mr Major's team had made use of the famous sloping pitch of government, and played both halves running downhill, and with the wind. Their opponents, not having been allowed a sniff of Scott till hours before the kick-off, were handicapped. But yesterday the match was being fought on a level playing field, and the incumbents were forced to deploy other tactics to keep their foes at bay. Would they use a continental defence ("if you think we're bad, you should see what the Frogs get up to")? Or perhaps the defending champions strategy ("none of you understand the exigencies of government")?

Within a few minutes of the starting whistle, the outlines of their game plan became clear. Their large but immobile central defence, marshalled by Ian Lang, would seek to stifle the game. Once the passion of the other side was spent, then they would counter-attack and win.

The President of the Board of Trade set off at a steady drone, the ball at his feet. He praised government initiatives to make government more transparent, like the Citizen's Charter and the release of 48,000 records to scrutiny. He had, he said, deposited an interesting document in the library. And so on.

After 20 minutes it occurred to some of the opposition fans that not only were they not getting any possession, but that they couldn't actually see the ball any more - the unscrupulous Mr Lang had shoved it up his jersey and out of sight. "Timewasting," they cried anxiously at the Speaker.

They needn't have worried. Sensing that his opponent's morale was low, Lang initiated a reckless attack into the other half using the "what the last Labour government did" historical route on goal - and lost the ball in the process.

On, to Labour cheers, came Cookie. With his low centre of gravity and 40/40 vision, Robin Cook is New Labour's Jimmy Greaves. He tormented the defence with mazy dribbles, clever flicks and hard shots. Tony Blair looked on with mingled pride and apprehension at his star performer, probably wondering what his next contract is going to cost next season.

Player turned commentator turned player again, David Mellor, attempted to halt Cook's progress. Could the flame-haired Westminster Wizard justify these three scurrilous charges made three years earlier before the advent of Scott, including the false one that the Government had sold yer actual weapons to Iraq? Cook had anticipated this manoeuvre in every detail. He tackled hard. The crowd roared. One nil. And still Cookie ran.

He scored another from a cross by balding winger Gerald Kaufman, despite a desperate lunge from the flailing Lang.There was nothing for it, but to send on a sub. Hezza.

The veteran attacker lumbered magnificently forward into the opposition half. Was it not a fact that even the defence lawyers in Matrix Churchill had felt that the Attorney General's assumptions about the use of PIIs were right. He took aim, brought his leg forward to shoot - only to discover that the ball was no longer at his feet. Cook quoted back to him his own evidence to Scott, that he himself hadn't accepted Lyell's judgement - and scored into an unguarded net. Hezza limped off.

There remained only the lap of honour ("this government should do the honourable thing - and resign") and Cookie disappeared into the tunnel, to thunderous applause.

But how many of the other side's supporters would be impressed? Four hours later, showered and relaxed, Cookie got his answer. One too few, alas. One too few.

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